Patterico's Pontifications


NY Times’ Public Editor: Yeah, Prejudice Drove Our Coverage of the Safeway Massacre

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 2:01 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Mind you, he doesn’t quite say that, but what else are you supposed to make of this when discussing the rush to judgment following the Giffords shooting?

So why does a story get framed this way? Journalism educators characterize this kind of framing as a storytelling habit — one of relating new facts to an existing storyline — and also as a reflex of news organizations that are built to handle some topics well, and others less well.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the journalism school at the University of Nevada, Reno, said journalists’ impulse to quickly impose a frame on a story is “genetic.”

“Journalists developed automatic framing protocols generations ago because of the need to report quickly,” he said. “Today’s hyper-deadlines, requiring journalists to report all day long and all night long, made that genetic disposition even more dominant.”

In other words, they assumed a right winger did it based on Sarah Palin’s map or something because they were already inclined to think so.  In other words, they were filled with prejudice—i.e. they pre-judged the issue.

He goes on to offer this meek defense:

To be fair, there were some good reasons to steer the coverage initially in this direction. AsRick Berke, the national editor, said: “Our coverage early on was broad and touched everything from the possible shooter to the victims to the reaction to, yes, the political climate in Arizona. By our count, there were 49 stories in the paper the first six days after the tragedy, of which only 14 were political in nature. But it would be ridiculous for us to neglect that. After all, a politician was shot in the head while meeting with constituents. That same lawmaker had her office vandalized during an especially rancorous campaign. And after the shooting the sheriff called his state the capital of hatred and bigotry.”

So let me translate that: “the entire state of Arizona is a bunch of racist right wing hicks, and so naturally we assumed that this racist right wing hickiness was responsible for the killing.”

Look, it is absolutely natural to suppose that if someone attempts to assassinate a political official, that politics might have motivated it in some way.  But it is shallow in the extreme to assume that it is as simple as saying that a political assassination of a Democrat has to necessarily be by a Republican or a Conservative.  People on the left were angry at her, too.  And besides, there are lots of bills Congresspersons vote on and there are winners and losers divided up in ways that have nothing to do with ideology, but still relate to her job and are thus political in some sense of the word.  For instance, she might have favored building a hospital in a certain place, and a rival hospital hired assassins to kill her to prevent that competitor from being built.  I am not saying that this scenario looked particularly likely on that Saturday, but that is the kind of thing you want to find out by investigating.

And quoting the Sheriff provides no excuse.  What the Times should have done is what Megyn Kelly did do: ask him what factual basis he had for saying this (answer: none).  But they didn’t want to do that kind of investigation because it didn’t fit their prejudices.

And in the meantime, the correct response would have been, ironically, what they said after the Ft. Hood shooting.  You have one paragraph acknowledging that the assassination attempt might be political in some sense of the word, but that it would be irresponsible to speculate.

And Krugman should be fired.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

31 Responses to “NY Times’ Public Editor: Yeah, Prejudice Drove Our Coverage of the Safeway Massacre”

  1. they’re saying ok we screwed up this time but just you wait til next time

    happyfeet (aa4bab)

  2. It is in their genetics to be lying dishonest hacks?

    JD (d4bbf1)

  3. JD

    if its genetics, then there is hope for a gene therapy cure.

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  4. EUGENECIST !!!!!!!!!!!

    JD (d4bbf1)

  5. The story line began with Dallas, November 22, 1963. Jackie Kennedy was later quoted that it was a shame Oswald was a communist because it was a “waste.”

    Mike K (8f3f19)

  6. #

    “The Times had a lot of company, as news organizations, commentators and political figures shouldered into an unruly scrum battling over whether the political environment was to blame.”

    What difference does it make if you had company? Take responsibility for your own scurrilous conduct. Saying you had company does not make what you did any less reprehensible, all it does is show that all lot of the media has the same low standards.


    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  7. NY Times : We apologize if you were so stupid you misunderstood our entire coverage of the Safeway Massacre to be fact free blind ideological hatred of the right. Not all of our coverage represented fact free blind ideological hatred of the right.

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  8. For all their veneer, these journalists are in fact simpletons. They get degrees in journalism rather than an education in a subject. To get a degree in journalism you do not even need to know how to spell, much less learn grammar. All you need is to think critically (of America, whites, and every conservative).

    pat (f1bffe)

  9. Ah, yes; “fake but accurate.” I see.

    Jim (844377)

  10. And Krugman should be fired.

    Well, that goes without saying. It is, after all, a day that ends in “Y”.

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  11. If we’re being honest there are very few journalists or reporters out there any more. They’re almost all opinion writers to one degree or another.

    elissa (4ca111)

  12. Actually, it’s much more likely that politics doesn’t motivate a massacre killer, even when the target is a politician. That should have been the first clue to anyone with half a brain watching this thing unfold. More than half the time, massacre killers are just plain ole nuts, like Loughner.

    Bet (06dac1)

  13. scott

    mmm, apparently doesn’t go without saying at nu yawk times

    man i miss the days when their columnists were subscription only. as one person called it, the “firewall of sanity.” lol

    Aaron Worthing (73a7ea)

  14. “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority.”

    Richard Hofstadter
    Harper’s Magazine, November, 1965

    The narrative, set by Hofstadter, a professor at Columbia, and former Communist Party of America member, was set in 1965. Hofstadter set the narrative, Saul Alinsky put that narrative into practical application. There is not a journalism major who has graduated in the last 45 years that is not familiar with Hofstadter. He is taught in the tony journalism schools, along with the idea that “journalists” can even manipulate the public opinion with their style.

    There are those who said journalism died during the campaign season of 2008. It didn’t. It died the day that Walter Cronkite, revered by the left and the role model for every journalist student in America, took to the camera, dress in kaiki tan and reporting from South Vietnam, told the American public that the finest fighting force in the world had lost the Tet Offensive.

    So the NYSlimes can offer all the empty platitudes they want, they have been operating on the Hofstadter model for generations. I don’t expect them to change now.

    retire05 (173aa6)

  15. Greetings:

    I’m often amazed at the gallows humor that follows close upon the heels of modern-day tragedies. No more than half an hour after the Challenger exploded, the “What does NASA mean? Need Another Seven Astronauts.” gift to the world reached me. And this was in the San Francisco Bay area.

    For the Tuscon attack, the resulting half-witticism seems to be, “Instead of Safeway, the Congresswoman should have gone to Lucky.”

    11B40 (5f1c64)

  16. “There would be torture and then an ear necklace, with [Minnesota US Rep.] Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin’s ears toward the end, because they’re small, female ears, and then Limbaugh, Hannity and the biggest ears of all, Cheney’s, in the center,” Fuller said.

    This is the civility that the leftists are calling for?

    JD (d4bbf1)

  17. True, but didn’t the coverage of the Goldwater campaign, which was the most virulent till the
    ’08 campaign, where he was slandered as a trigger happy, racist, nazi phile (based on his acceptance
    of an invitation rendered by Sally Quinn’s general father to Germany)

    narciso (6075d0)

  18. “So why does a story get framed this way?”

    Because the NYT is a left wing propaganda rag, with all the credibility of a supermarket tabloid.

    Any more stupid questions, or is that it for today?

    Dave Surls (302550)

  19. “To get a degree in journalism you do not even need to know how to spell, much less learn grammar.”

    My J-school was very tough on that in the 1980s. The department had the least grade inflation in the whole school. Maybe it has changed. Its graduates went on to smaller market dailies and TV stations, or to government jobs.

    I heard years ago that the elite news outfits eschew journalism majors, hiring instead Ivy League grads who majored in English or other subjects, and teach them reporting skills in-house.

    carol (130471)

  20. It [journalism] died the day that Walter Cronkite, revered by the left and the role model for every journalist student in America, took to the camera, dress in kaiki tan and reporting from South Vietnam, told the American public that the finest fighting force in the world had lost the Tet Offensive.
    Comment by retire05 — 1/17/2011 @ 3:45 pm

    The idea that Cronkite was the epitomy of grandfatherly wisdom and integrity has to be among the top of the list of important things that “everybody knows” but are not true.

    Reality is strange. What seems more believeable- that there is a conspiracy of the government to hide the truth from the public, or that America’s #1 news announcer lies to the public over dinner and nobody calls him on it?

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  21. Careful. Cronkite is IMP’s buddy.

    JD (d4bbf1)

  22. “Cronkite is IMP’s buddy.”

    Both are Zombies.

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  23. Speaking of bias, and rank stupidity, here is another shining example from the front page of the Los Angeles Times…

    Brad (28313e)

  24. I may be wrong but, in my humble opinion, I always thought that the character “Ted Baxter” on the Mary Tyler Moore show was an “in-house” joke about Walter Cronkite.

    Longwalker (996c34)

  25. He also used the excuse that everyone else was doing it, so they’re really not so bad compared to them.

    What drivel by the paper which should set the example! And how does he explain Krugman who was first out of the box with the DNC party line? Yes, poor and sloppy editing.

    Corky Boyd (d787be)

  26. “Mind you, he doesn’t quite say that…”
    “In other words…”
    “So let me translate that…”

    Not q

    Kman (d30fc3)

  27. Not quite sure AW should be giving journalism lectures…

    Kman (d30fc3)

  28. The facts did not conport wih the template, so ignore the facts, rely on a fool like Dupnik, whose negligence we know now borders on criminal, because he subscribed to the template. Cast blame on someone who had nothing to do with the crime, because we know she will not speak out, until the facts are in.

    narciso (6075d0)

  29. Kmart is going to entertain us with his performance art. Today, it will be interpretive dance about the conservative hate speech. Enjoy.

    JD (71d5a4)

  30. Kmart admonishes AW about offering his opinions on journalism, but thinks nothing about opening his blowhole and opining about every post he doesn’t bother to read in the first place. Projection, thy name is kmart.

    Dmac (498ece)

  31. it will be interpretive dance

    More like Bad Lesbian Dance, reviewed by Leonard Pince Garnell.

    Dmac (498ece)

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